Blood Will Tell: Scientific Racism and the Legal Prohibition Against Miscegenation

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2010-02-21 00:19Z by Steven

Blood Will Tell: Scientific Racism and the Legal Prohibition Against Miscegenation

Michigan Journal of Race & Law
University of Michigan Law School
Volume 5, Issue 2 (Spring 2000)
pages 560-609

Keith Edward Sealing, Dean of Students
Widener Law School, Widener University

Laws banning miscegenation endured in the colonies and the United States for more than 300 years. When the Supreme Court declared all such laws unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia in 1967, sixteen such statutes and constitutional provisions were still in effect. Scientific racism determined a hierarchy within the White race that placed the Teutonic at the top, the Anglo-Saxon as the heir to the Teuton, and the American as the current leading branch of that line. Prior to the Darwinian revolution, two competing scientific theories, monogenism and polygenism, were applied to justify miscegenation statutes. The “monogenists” believed that all men descended from a single ancestor and were of the same species. This theory comported with the Bible and the story of Ham, as interpreted literally by the fundamentalists. The “polygenists” saw Blacks as a separate and inferior species descended from a different “Adam,” and, thus, saw slavery as qualitatively no different from the ownership of a horse, and miscegenation as approaching bestiality. These beliefs and attitudes endured well into the Twentieth Century, supported after 1900 by the eugenics movement. This article focuses on anti-miscegenation statutes as applied to former slaves and others of African descent, particularly in the South. This article first examines the miscegenation paradigm in terms of a seven-point conceptual framework that not merely allowed but practically demanded anti-miscegenation laws, then looks at the legal arguments state courts used to justify the constitutionality of such laws through 1967. Next, it analyzes the Biblical argument, which in its own right justified miscegenation, but also had a major influence on the development of the three major strands of scientific racism: monogenism, polygenism and Darwinian theory. It then probes the concept upon which the entire edifice is constructed—race—and discusses the continuing vitality of this construct. Next, this article turns to the major strands of scientific racism and briefly develops more modern theories that continued the racist tradition well into the Twentieth Century. The article then looks at the effects of scientific racism on the thoughts and actions of the founding fathers and the Reconstruction-era Congress before turning to the long line of state cases upholding miscegenation statutes, in part by relying on scientific racism. Finally, it discusses the cases that questioned the constitutionality of anti-miscegenation statutes, Perez v. Lippold and Loving v. Virginia.

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Engineering American society: the lesson of eugenics

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-02-08 00:08Z by Steven

Engineering American society: the lesson of eugenics

Nature Reviews Genetics
Volume 1, November 2000
pages 153-158

David Micklos
DNA Learning Centre
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York

Elof Carlson, Professor Emeritus
State University of New York, Stony Brook

We stand at the threshold of a new century, with the whole human genome stretched out before us. Messages from science, the popular media, and the stock market suggest a world of seemingly limitless opportunities to improve human health and productivity. But at the turn of the last century, science and society faced a similar rush to exploit human genetics.  The story of eugenics—humankind’s first venture into a ‘gene age’ — holds a cautionary lesson for our current preoccupation with genes.

Eugenics was the effort to apply the principles of genetics and agricultural breeding towards improving the human race. The term “eugenics”— meaning well born —was coined in 1883 by Francis Galton, a British scientist who used data from biographical dictionaries and alumni records at Oxford and Cambridge Universities to conclude that superior intelligence and abilities were traits that could be inherited.

Most people equate eugenics with atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany for the sake of racial purity. In this context, eugenics is easy to dismiss as purely aberrant behaviour. However, the story of eugenics in the United States is, perhaps, more important than that of Nazi Germany as a cautionary tale to take with us into our new century.  Here we describe the tale of the subtle ways in which the science of genetics was, by degrees, transformed from an agricultural experiment into a popular movement to engineer American society. The fact that eugenics flourished in the land of liberty, involved numerous prominent scientists and civic leaders, and made its intellectual home at the forerunner of the now prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory shows just how far America fell from grace during this period…

Race mixing. Laws against interracial marriage had existed in some states since colonial times, but their number increased after the Civil War. The idea that race mixing, or miscegenation, causes genetic deterioration was proposed by Joseph Arthur Gobineau and other anthropologists in the late nineteenth century. It is worth noting that eugenicists’ conception of race included the classic divisions by skin colour, as well as differences in national origin.  Most lay-eugenicists subscribed to the Biblical idea of ‘like with like’ and that the ‘half-breed’ offspring of parents from two different races were genetically inferior to the parental stock. Davenport’s compilation in 1913 showed that 29 states had laws forbidding mixed-race marriages.  Although these laws were not always enforced, heavy fines and long prison terms showed how seriously American society considered miscegenation to be at that time.

As in the case of immigration restriction, eugenicists were more than willing to provide a supposed scientific rationale for existing
racial prejudice. In his influential book, The Passing of the Great Race, Madison Grant warned that racial mixing was a social crime that would lead to the demise of white civilization. Eugenicists actively supported strengthening pre-existing laws and enacting of new ones, including the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924. The Virginia Act and all other similar state laws were struck down by the United States Supreme Court in 1967 in Loving versus Commonwealth of Virginia

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Deciding on Doctrine: Anti-Miscegenation Statutes and the Development of Equal Protection Analysis

Posted in Articles, Law, New Media, United States on 2010-02-07 02:27Z by Steven

Deciding on Doctrine: Anti-Miscegenation Statutes and the Development of Equal Protection Analysis

Virginia Law Review
Number 95, Issue 3 (May 2009)
pages 627-665

Rebecca Schoff
University of Virginia School of Law

In 1967, the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States were in complete agreement that the statutory scheme before them in Loving v. Virginia, which criminalized interracial marriage, should be invalidated. They did not, however, agree on which legal doctrines justified the invalidation. Eight Justices signed on to an opinion that carefully hedged the question with arguments related to both the equal protection and the due process clauses. Justice Potter Stewart authored a terse concurring opinion asserting that there could be no valid state law “which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor.” Although no other member of the Court was willing to sign on to this concurrence, it gave voice to a doctrine that had been a central argument of civil rights litigation, articulated as early as Justice [John Marshall] Harlan’s famed dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson.

This Note will explore why the Warren Court chose the path it did to invalidate anti-miscegenation laws. More generally, it will analyze the Warren Court’s treatment of anti-miscegenation statutes with the object of gaining perspective on the relationship between decision and doctrine: assuming that Justices are in agreement as to which party should prevail, what factors, legal and non-legal, can influence the Court’s preference for one doctrine over another? In Loving, the decision to reject Justice Stewart’s rationale had far-reaching consequences. Had the Court followed Justice Stewart’s reasoning, review of criminal statutes, at least, would not require even a cursory analysis of the legislature’s purpose once a racial classification was detected. It might be argued that the Court was simply seeking the narrowest grounds on which to decide the case and that Justice Stewart’s reasoning was simply too broad. Loving’s now-controversial place as a precedent supporting substantive due process analysis in right-to-marriage jurisprudence, however, would have been minimized, if not eliminated, by Justice Stewart’s approach. It may be difficult to predict the ramifications of doctrinal choices, particularly with respect to the interaction be-tween equal protection, due process, and fundamental rights. Ultimately, this Note will argue that the Warren Court showed a preference for a less rule-like approach to equal protection analysis, in part because the conditions surrounding desegregation exacer-bated the difficulty of analyzing the scope of rules. Dissecting the circumstances under which the Warren Court viewed its potential paths to a ruling against Virginia in Loving may help us to under-stand how and why the Court resolves such problems in particular ways…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (Review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, New Media, United States on 2010-02-06 02:01Z by Steven

What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (Review)

Law and Politics Book Review
American Political Science Association
pp. 218-220

Mark Kessler, Chair of the Department of History & Government and Professor of Government
Texas Woman’s Univeristy

What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. By Peggy Pascoe. (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2009. 404 pages. Cloth ISBN13: 9780195094633, ISBN10: 0195094638)

In this highly original and important book, Peggy Pascoe describes and analyzes three centuries of laws in the United States prohibiting interracial marriages and sexual relations. In perhaps the most comprehensive and systematic study of legal marriage and sex prohibitions to date, Pascoe argues that these laws were central ideological tools used in constituting and reproducing white supremacy in the United States. Placing her study in its broadest context, she argues that examining the rise and decline of these laws “provides a locus for studying the history of race in America” (p.2). Pascoe’s study demonstrates how historical research, combined with critical cultural theory and analysis, may shed new light on significant questions regarding the power of law and legal interpretation in constructing and reconstructing social reality.

Throughout this work, the writing is admirably accessible, while the analyses and arguments are deeply nuanced. Pascoe begins many of the eleven chapters with stories describing the people and circumstances involved in miscegenation cases throughout history. These stories are carefully selected to show the great variation in characteristics of participants, laws, and regions of the country in which the cases arose, and to help address the broader questions of nation-building and nation-formation that emerge from this study. Pascoe uses these very human stories, along with landmark appellate court decisions and local legal practices, to explore the many and varied ways in which social and political relations based on race, gender, and sexuality illuminate the rise and fall of miscegenation law in the United States.

Pascoe’s narrative begins in the Reconstruction era, when the term “miscegenation” was first invented and applied to interracial marriage and sex. Her discussion focuses on the ways in which judges, legislators, and lawyers employed notions of what is “natural” and “unnatural” in conventional cultural discourses about sex, gender, and sexuality to create and apply laws prohibiting interracial marriage and sex. Such laws emerged first in the South and North and typically applied exclusively to relations between those categorized racially as “white” and as “black.”…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , ,

The Virginia Racial Integrity Act Revisited: The Plecker-Laughlin correspondence: 1928-1930

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Virginia on 2010-01-19 01:55Z by Steven

The Virginia Racial Integrity Act Revisited: The Plecker-Laughlin correspondence: 1928-1930

American Journal of Medical Genetics
Volume 16, Issue 4
Pages 483 – 492
December 1983
DOI: 10.1002/ajmg.1320160407

Philip Reilly
University of Houston Law Center, Houston, Texas
Margery Shaw
University of Houston Law Center, Houston, Texas

Correspondence between Walter Ashby Plecker, Virginia State Registrar of Vital Statistics between 1912 and 1938, and Harry Hamilton Laughlin, Superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor between 1910 and 1939, provides evidence of efforts to enforce the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924. After antimiscegenation policy is placed in a historical context, excerpts from the letters are offered to demonstrate the zeal with which one state official pursued this eugenic policy.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thinking about Race, Sexuality, and Marriage: A Roundtable on Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally

Posted in History, Law, Live Events, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2010-01-08 20:55Z by Steven

Thinking about Race, Sexuality, and Marriage: A Roundtable on Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally

American Historical Association
124th Annual Meeting
Friday, 2010-01-10, 08:30-10:30 PST (Local Time)
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
Manchester Ballroom D (Hyatt)
San Diego, California

Thinking about Race, Sexuality, and Marriage: A Roundtable on Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally

Eileen Boris, Professor of History, Chair and Professor of Feminist Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

Vicki L. Ruiz, Chair and Professor of History
University of California, Irvine

Sponsored by the AHA Working Group for Historical Perspectives on Same-Sex Marriage

Panel Discussion
Kristin Celello, Assistant Professor of History
Queens College, City University of New York

For the past several decades, historians have argued effectively that far from being stable and unchanging until the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, marriage–as a legal and social institution–has changed in significant ways over the course of American history.  Pascoe’s book reminds us that race must necessarily be integrated into this discourse, contending not only that who has had access to marriage has varied but also that the state has played a crucial role in the creation of marital “norms.”

Panel Discussion
Matt J. Garcia, Associate Professor of American Civilization, Ethnic Studies and History
Brown University

Given the ascendancy of Obama and claims by media that we have arrived in a “post-Racial” era with his election, this book reminds us that such moments have come before in court cases concerning interracial unions and did not result in the end of race and racism that has been associated with these relationships.  Pascoe’s book, in other words, contributes to an evolving history of interracial relations, a subject that will have increasing interest as children of this generation go to college.  I plan to talk about the future audiences for her book by reflecting on my teaching the history of interracial relations and mixed race people over the last ten years.

Panel Discussion
Valerie Matsumoto, Associate Professor of History
University of California, Los Angeles

Peggy Pascoe‘s landmark work raises questions regarding post-World War II changes not only in the dominant US society but also within East Asian American communities, which had their own strong preferences for endogamous marriage.  Her research also draws attention to the roles played by Asian Americans in confronting old racial structures, as embedded in law.  Challenges to miscegenation laws in the US West were mounted by Nisei such as Noriko Sawada Bridges and Harry Oyama during the critical period of Japanese American community reconfiguration and rebuilding after World War II. I will consider how the Japanese American community’s understandings of racialization shifted in this era; I will also examine perceptions of interracial marriage within the ethnic community.

Panel Discussion
Jessica Millward, Assistant Professor of History
University of California, Irvine

I suggest that the implications of Peggy Pascoe‘s work on miscegenation laws stretch beyond the geographical setting of the West, and the temporal setting of the Progressive era, and signal key points of inquiry among scholars of African American Women’s history writ large. In particular, I focus on laws of slavery and manumission in 18th and 19th centuries.  Laws governing manumission held particular ramifications for enslaved African American women as they used their consensual and non-consensual relationships with owners, and consensual relationships with free black men to access freedom for themselves and their children.  I suggest that laws governing manumission served as precursors to miscegenation laws in the 20th century. Likewise, I suggest that “marriage” and uplift constituted a range of definitions based on the particular angle of vision of African American women in both slavery and in freedom.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance

Posted in Books, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2009-12-09 18:46Z by Steven

Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance

The University of Chicago Press
232 pages
6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 9780226536637

Rachel F. Moran, Michael J. Connell Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California, Los Angeles

As late as the 1960s, states could legally punish minorities who either had sex with or married persons outside of their racial groups. In this first comprehensive study of the legal regulation of interracial relationships, Rachel Moran grapples with the consequences of that history, candidly confronting its profound effects on not only conceptions of race and identity, but on ideas about sex, marriage, and family.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • 1. Insights from Interracial Intimacy
  • 2. Antimiscegenation Laws and the Enforcement of Racial Boundaries
  • 3. Subverting Racial Boundaries: Identity, Ambiguity, and Interracial Intimacy
  • 4. Antimiscegenation Laws and Norms of Sexual and Marital Propriety
  • 5. Judicial Review of Antimiscegenation Laws: The Long Road to Loving
  • 6. Race and Romanticism: The Persistence of Racial Endogamy after Loving
  • 7. Race and the Family: The Best Interest of the Child in Interracial Custody and Adoption Disputes
  • 8. Race and Identity: The New Multiracialism
  • 9. The Lessons of Interracial Intimacy
  • Notes
  • Index
Tags: , , , ,

Interracial Intimacy and the Potential for Social Change

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2009-12-09 18:23Z by Steven

Interracial Intimacy and the Potential for Social Change

Berkeley Women’s Law Journal
University of California, Berkeley Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper Series
pp. 153-164

Stephanie M. Wildman, Professor of Law and Director of Center for Social Justice and Public Service
Santa Clara University School of Law

Moran, Rachel F.  (2001).  Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
271 pp.

In her review essay Interracial Intimacy and the Potential for Social Change, Stephanie Wildman examines Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance by Rachel F. Moran. Moran’s book investigates the so-called private landscape of race in the context of interracial intimacy. Moran urges the connection between our personal, private views of race and racial issues and the policy decisions society makes in the public realm. Moran explores historic antimiscegenation laws and their role in establishing societal norms and customs, the significance of race in daily life, the legal decisions leading to Loving v. Virginia, and the role of race in custody and adoption decisions. Wildman observes that interracial gay and lesbian relationships represent another area usually viewed as private, yet which implicates the societal landscape. Recognition of the public aspect of personal choice is a necessary element in the fight against bias and the movement toward social change.

Read the entire review/essay here.

Tags: , , ,

Racial Constructions: The Legal Regulation of Miscegenation in Alabama, 1890–1934

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2009-12-08 03:52Z by Steven

Racial Constructions: The Legal Regulation of Miscegenation in Alabama, 1890–1934

Law and History Review
Volume 20, Number 2 (Summer 2002)

Julie Novkov, Associate Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies
State University of New York, Albany

For over one hundred years–from the post–Civil War era to the post–Civil Rights era–the state of Alabama maintained a legal and social commitment to keeping blacks and whites from engaging in long-term sexual relationships with each other. Recent studies addressing the laws that barred miscegenation have shown that investigating governmental reactions to intimate interracial connections reveals much about the interplay between legal and social definitions of race as well as about the development of whiteness as a proxy for superior social, political, and legal status.  As scholarly interest in whiteness as an ideological category has grown, historians have sought the roots of modern conceptions of whiteness as an oppositional category to blackness in legal, social, and economic relations in the southern United States during the era of Jim Crow.

Prosecutions for miscegenation were an important component in the process of defining race and entrenching white supremacy.  Interracial sexual relationships challenged the boundaries between white and non-white in the most fundamental way by subverting the model of the white family and often by threatening to produce or producing mixed-race children. In most southern states, even before the rise of the so-called “Redeemer” governments and the establishment of Jim Crow, lawmakers in the new postbellum legislatures moved quickly to bar specifically marriages between blacks and whites. By doing so, they sent a signal that even if the national government were intent upon imposing civil and political equality, so-called social equality would not result from emancipation or constitutional reform. The struggle against miscegenation was at bottom a struggle to establish and maintain whiteness as a separate and impermeable racial category that all observers could easily identify. While individuals whose race could not easily be determined threatened this system, the greater threat was the establishment of the miscegenic family. A black man with a white wife, as well as a white man with a black wife, not only had the potential to produce racially ambiguous children but also undermined white supremacy, and thus whiteness itself, by openly melding black and white into the most fundamental unit of society, the family.

 Thus, keeping black and white separate required preventing individuals from being able to challenge the boundary between them. In order to do so, however, understandings of what constituted blackness and whiteness had to be in place. Prior to the Civil War, these had rested largely in social context and interaction; whiteness was intimately connected to performance and its constitution depended upon an individual’s ability to do the things that whites characteristically did. While free blacks posed a problem for this schema, their existence did not challenge the fundamental nature of the system in place, which became increasingly stringent and rigid as sectional conflict increased. In the wake of the Civil War, both whiteness and blackness had to be renegotiated and reconstructed, since slavery was no longer a yardstick. Some legislators and legal actors turned to science both to define blackness and whiteness and to understand their significance for public policy. Defining “race” was always in the background of the prohibition against miscegenation, but during the period when genetic understandings of race were most popular, the question of defining blackness was central in Alabama.

Because of the wealth of data, studying Alabama’s regulation of miscegenation is particularly helpful in understanding the generation and shifting of ideological conceptions of race. Other Southern and Western states were also grappling with these questions, as evinced by appellate decisions regarding convictions for miscegenation, but Alabama’s appellate courts were particularly engaged with these questions. They produced thirty-eight opinions concerning miscegenation–more reported decisions on the appellate level than any other state–between the end of the Civil War and the U.S. Supreme Court’s invalidation of such statutes in 1967. The number of individuals charged with violating a statute and convicted of violations is a significant measure of the law’s importance. But reviewing appellate litigation reveals more about the questions that were settled and in flux at particular historical moments.  Charles Robinson speculates that Alabama had significantly more cases than any other state both because of its large black population from the postbellum era to the present and because Alabama’s prohibitionary law was more broadly framed than comparable laws in neighboring states; a legal climate in which appeals were sometimes successful probably also contributed to the frequency of litigation.  Because of the large number of appellate cases, more information is available about the development of legal and social questions regarding miscegenation in Alabama than anywhere else.

 This article focuses on a subset of these cases, analyzing the development of racial definitions in the law through the interplay between changing scientific understandings of race and legal actors’ manipulations of these understandings. In the 1890s and early 1900s, appeals of convictions for miscegenation raised evidentiary questions that set the stage for a struggle over proving race in the courts that began in 1918 and continued into the 1930s. In the appellate cases, the focused contention over racial definitions partially resulted from and coincided with the growing presence of eugenic theories about race in public and legal discourse. The science of eugenics captured the popular imagination shortly after the turn of the century and provided a new framework for arguing in terms of scientific expertise that non-whites were inherently and irremediably inferior to whites. This shift toward eugenic explanations of race and racial definition paralleled and partially initiated a shift from evidentiary concerns in the courts to a direct confrontation with questions about racial definition. The new focus on genetic framings of race, however, had an ironic result: criminal defendants convicted of miscegenation were able, often successfully, to challenge their convictions on the ground that the state had not adequately proven that they were black. This temporarily undermined the state’s efforts to maintain whiteness as a separate and impenetrable category.

As background to this argument, the article first addresses the evolution of the prohibition of miscegenation and the scope of appellate litigation that it generated. It then explains the evidentiary battles of the turn of the century and outlines the rise of eugenic theories and their impact on the law. With this legal, social, and scientific context established, the article turns to the question of how defense attorneys were able to exploit genetic framings of racial definitions for their clients convicted of miscegenation…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Mongrel Nation: The America Begotten by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2009-11-19 02:02Z by Steven

Mongrel Nation: The America Begotten by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings

University of Virginia Press
January 2009
144 pages
5 1/2x 81/4
Cloth ISBN 0-8139-2777-0

Clarence E. Walker, Professor of History
University of California, Davis

The debate over the affair between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings rarely rises above the question of “Did they or didn’t they?” But lost in the argument over the existence of such a relationship are equally urgent questions about a history that is more complex, both sexually and culturally, than most of us realize. Mongrel Nation seeks to uncover this complexity, as well as the reasons it is so often obscured.

Clarence Walker contends that the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings must be seen not in isolation but in the broader context of interracial affairs within the plantation complex. Viewed from this perspective, the relationship was not unusual or aberrant but was fairly typical. For many, this is a disturbing realization, because it forces us to abandon the idea of American exceptionalism and reexamine slavery in America as part of a long, global history of slaveholders frequently crossing the color line.

More than many other societies—and despite our obvious mixed-race population—our nation has displayed particular reluctance to acknowledge this dynamic. In a country where, as early as 1662, interracial sex was already punishable by law, an understanding of the Hemings-Jefferson relationship has consistently met with resistance. From Jefferson’s time to our own, the general public denied—or remained oblivious to—the possibility of the affair. Historians, too, dismissed the idea, even when confronted with compelling arguments by fellow scholars. It took the DNA findings of 1998 to persuade many (although, to this day, doubters remain).

The refusal to admit the likelihood of this union between master and slave stems, of course, from Jefferson’s symbolic significance as a Founding Father. The president’s apologists, both before and after the DNA findings, have constructed an iconic Jefferson that tells us more about their own beliefs—and the often alarming demands of those beliefs—than it does about the interaction between slave owners and slaves. Much more than a search for the facts about two individuals, the debate over Jefferson and Hemings is emblematic of tensions in our society between competing conceptions both of race and of our nation.

Tags: , , , , , ,